Fall Protection After the Fall.
Employers have the obligation to prevent employees from falling. To protect worker’s from falling, employers must guard holes, and provide protection during elevated work. Fall protection can include guardrails, safety nets, and/or personal fall arrest systems. But what happens if the employee falls?
Prolonged suspension from a fall arrest system can cause orthostatic intolerance, which can result in serious physical injury, even death. Blood is normally pushed back to the heart by muscular contraction. If a person’s legs are immobile, gravity and the lack of movement can cause the blood to pool in the legs.
The accumulation of blood in the legs reduces the amount of blood in circulation causing a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can cause fainting and more serious consequences such as renal failure. Symptoms can include light-headedness, palpitations, tremors, poor concentration, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, sweating, weakness and fainting.
To reduce the risk associated with prolonged suspension in a fall arrest system, employers should develop and implement plans to prevent this potential danger.
Under 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(20), OSHA requires that employers “provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.” Ideally then, the employee will be capable of self-rescue using an ascension or descent control device. Therefore, companies should identify rescue procedures and address the potential for suspension trauma. Furthermore, rescue procedures should also cover how to handle the rescued worker to avoid any injuries following the rescue.
Once rescued, the worker should receive standard trauma resuscitation. It is also important that the rescue worker be monitored continuously for signs of developing orthostatic shock. The employee should receive first aid and be hospitalized as needed. Similarly, there is a concern for delayed effects of other conditions including kidney failure.
OSHA requires employers to train workers. They must be trained to use fall arrest systems and other personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly in accordance with the standards. Training must include recognizing fall hazards, the nature of fall hazards, the correct procedures for using fall protection systems, and proper handling of the equipment.
Worker’s must know how to properly wear the PPE and how to care for it. For Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS), workers must be trained before using the equipment. Additionally, they must be trained to understand the limits of the equipment and how to properly hook-up, anchor and tie-off. Worker’s should be trained so they can demonstrate the proper use, inspection and storage of their equipment.